Students can now obtain birth control pills and other contraceptives under Student Health’s insurance plan, the Chickering Group, for the first time. GW Student Health Director Dr. Isabel Goldenberg said the change came after growing concern about sexual health coverage among students.
The coverage change was implemented after a group of GW law students sent a letter to University administrators last November, calling the exclusion of contraceptive coverage from Student Health’s insurance sex discrimination.
“I think it’s about time,” junior Liz Kotchian said. “I think it’s good that GW is recognizing how important sexual health is for college-aged women.”
Amy Moses, one of the students behind the letter, said the group took up the issue after realizing many students, graduate and undergraduate, were questioning GW’s policy.
“It’s great that GW agreed to change their policy,” Moses said. “I hope students check their health plans on other campuses and see if contraceptives are covered.”
Lawyers from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Women’s Law Center and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice backed the claim.
According to the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, the exclusion of contraceptive coverage violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the federal Title IX law.
Leslie Brueckner, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice attorney representing the law students, said she was surprised by how swiftly the University responded to the letter’s accusations.
“Once we brought the matter to GW’s attention, they turned on a dime and changed their policy,” she said. “GW’s administration has shown itself to be reasonable and fair.”
Brueckner said most U.S. colleges and universities typically offer limited contraceptive coverage to students.
“GW wasn’t alone in this,” she said. “It appears as if hundreds, if not thousands, of colleges nationwide have excluded this coverage from their plans.”
American, Georgetown, Catholic and Gallaudet universities all do not include contraceptive coverage in their student health plans, though Gallaudet and American both offer various contraceptives devices to students at discounted prices.
Goldenberg said many students asked Student Health to offer more comprehensive gynecological coverage prior to the law students’ letter to the administration.
“This was something that (Student Health) always wanted to add to the plan,” Goldenberg said. “A lot of students requested it.”
In the past, Student Health referred students seeking prescription birth control options to a GW Hospital OB/GYN. If the visit was not covered under the student’s family or GW health plan, the exam and the prescription had to be paid in full by the patient, at costs often exceeding $200 per visit.
Most family health plans offer coverage for only one non-emergency gynecological visit per year, so an extra visit for prescription birth control must be paid out-of-pocket.
Student Health will still require proof of a recent yearly gynecological exam before issuing most birth control prescriptions under the new policy, but students covered under Chickering will pay a discounted fee per prescription.
Goldenberg said Student Health will issue first-time birth control users a one-month prescription until they are able to make an appointment with a gynecologist. Student Health still does not offer routine gynecological visits or testing for sexually transmitted diseases, but the GW Hospital and area Planned Parenthoods offer these services, sometimes for free, in addition to private practices.
Birth control pills will cost students with Chickering insurance $15 per pack for generic brands and $25 for brand-name pills, at least $10 less than the average $35 per-pack cost each month outside of Student Health. Goldenberg said the cost for contraceptives will also vary depending on Chickering’s co-payment charges for each brand.
Students can pay prescriptions with Debit Dollars, MasterCard, Visa, check or cash. Students not covered under GW student insurance can still receive discounts on their birth control prescriptions by showing a GWorld card at the GW pharmacy in the Ambulatory Care Center at 22 and I Streets.
Many students are pleased with the increased coverage at Student Health.
“I think birth control being covered by GW insurance is a good thing,” freshman Taylor Jubanowsky said. “A lot of girls are taking it for medical reasons, not just as a contraceptive.”
Freshman Sarah Halzack agreed.
“It promotes being safe and it makes birth control feel more accessible,” she said.
Chickering Health Insurance, which is available to all students yearlong, covers an average of 1,500 students each year.